Stocks are falling in afternoon trading Friday, putting Wall Street on track for its third losing week in the last four.
The losses came after the government said U.S. employers cut 701,000 more jobs than they added last month, the first drop in nearly a decade. Many businesses have screeched to a halt amid attempts to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, and economists say the dire data is only going to get worse.
U.S. stock indexes held steady at first, then headed lower after the price of oil lost some of its momentum. That undercut a rally for energy stocks, which had been helping to keep the overall market's losses in check. Losses accelerated after New York's governor announced the biggest daily jump yet for deaths caused by the coronavirus in the country's hardest-hit state.
The worry is, there's just too much uncertainty, said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research for Nationwide.
The S&P 500 was down 2.5% as of 2:05 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 526 points, or 2.5%, to 20,886, and the Nasdaq was down 2.6%.
Such losses would be striking during a normal market, but since the market began selling off in mid-February, the average down day for stocks has brought an even steeper loss of 3.8%.
It shows that markets have already factored in dismal economic numbers for at least the next few weeks, said Peter Essele, head of portfolio management for Commonwealth Financial Network.
Friday's jobs report likely doesn't even fully capture the extent of the recent job losses, which have been accelerating by the day, because it collected data from before stay-at-home orders were widespread.
There is far worse to come, said Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein.
Economists say next month's report may even show the economy has wiped away the last of the 22.8 million jobs created during its nearly decade-long hiring streak.
The S&P 500 is down 27% since its record set in February, reflecting the growing assumption that the economy is set to slide into a sudden, extremely sharp recession.
But the panic selling that dominated the first few weeks of the sell-off has calmed a bit since Washington unleashed massive amounts of aid to help markets and the economy. The Federal Reserve has promised to buy as many Treasury securities as it takes to keep lending markets running smoothly, and Congress approved a 2.2 trillion rescue plan for the economy.
Together, these actions are staggering and unprecedented and will go some distance toward helping to cushion the economic blow of this health crisis and help get the country to the other side, said Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock.